‘We’re not more militant than Muslims!’ claim Evangelical Alliance

The Evangelical Alliance has challenged Trevor Phillips after he accused Christians of being more militant than Muslims when it comes to complaining about discrimination. He also claimed that Muslims were making more of an effort to integrate into “modern” society.

Mr Phillips said that Muslim communities in Britain were “doing their damnedest to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they’re doing their best to try to develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy”. Controversially, he said that “the person most likely to feel slighted because of their religion is an evangelical Christian”.

There has been a series of high profile court cases and disciplinary hearings in recent years involving Christians who expressed their faith or followed their consciences, particularly in the workplace. The cases have led to strong criticism of the Equality Laws by Christians.

The Evangelical Alliance (EA) said Mr Phillips was mistaken in assuming Muslims had integrated better into the new world of equality and human rights than Christians.

A press release by the EA said,

The Evangelical Alliance has called on the Equality and Human Rights Commission to “wise up” to Christianity, in the wake of recent comments by its Chair Trevor Phillips.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Phillips expressed concern that people of faith are “under siege” from a mounting secularist agenda that seeks to marginalise religion.

However, he also argued that evangelical Christians are more “militant” than Muslims in complaining about discrimination, out of a desire to gain more political influence. He particularly criticised Afro-Caribbean religious communities for holding to “undiluted” views on homosexuality, and evangelical groups that focus on that issue in particular to score political points rather than further their religion.

Mr Phillips stated firmly that religious faith is an important part of society and should be recognised in equality and human rights legislation.
He said: “Being an Anglican, being a Muslim or being a Methodist or being a Jew is just as much part of your identity and you should not be penalised or treated in a discriminatory way because of that. That’s part of the settlement of a liberal democracy.
“Our business is defending the believer. The law we’re here to implement recognises that religious identity is an essential part of this society. It’s an essential element of being a fulfilled human being.”
The Evangelical Alliance affirmed Mr Phillips’ recognition that faith is integral to a person’s identity, and that people of faith often feel marginalised.
However, the Alliance stated that Christians can feel just as stifled by government bodies, such as the EHRC, as they are by popular anti-religious views.
Dr Don Horrocks, head of public affairs at the Evangelical Alliance, said: “Christians have been at the forefront of defending religious liberty and freedom of speech and conscience against the encroachment of a largely secular agenda that has been forcibly seeking to impose a ‘one size fits all’ blunt instrument of equalities legislation on everyone. Such an approach ignorantly assumes that faith adherents can simply suspend their convictions and consciences in public life and keep them private.”
The Alliance also took issue with Mr Phillips’ “patronising” remarks about Afro-Caribbean Christianity, as well as his assumptions that Muslims are integrating into British society better than evangelical Christians.

The EA criticised Mr Phillips for his “patronising and disparaging” insinuation that African-Caribbean Christian was an irrelevant “old time religion”. “Sadly Mr Phillips fails to appreciate that this expression of Christian belief is at the heart of the mainstream, historic and orthodox Christian church that is growing rapidly in every continent,” it said. Although it insisted Christians were not looking for exceptional treatment, the EA said the Commission had failed to step in when they faced discrimination.

Trevor Phillips, whilst making some good points, has sparked a lot of tension, I believe. And not just amongst Christians I would say. I would think that the Muslim community would be a bit miffed at Phillips’ statement that Muslims are “creating a view of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy”

I know I commented on this interview just yesterday. But upon more reflection, it seems as though there are good bits in what Trevor Phillips says, but the bad bits just outweigh them.

Is Trevor Phillips asking us to water down our faiths if we want less trouble in terms of discrimination? I think he is in one way. He doesn’t seem to think that we can properly intergrate within the British System as Christians if we don’t give up some of our beliefs. There seems to be a sniff of ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’ philosophy in the Phillips’ responses…

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • Also, just found an interesting press release by Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans @ http://fcasa.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/a-response-to-trevor-phillips/

  • KD

    The notion that Muslims are somewhere, somehow, inventing a new watered-down form of Islam which is compatible with British values (such as freedom of speech) is nothing but a fantasy. Who’s doing that? Where? Which parts of the Koran are they revising?

    Why do they need revising? Why does the teachings of Islam even need to be revised in order to allow Muslims integrate into free and democratic societies?

    As for saying that Muslims don’t behave in a ‘militant’ manner whenever someone says something they don’t like, I’ve just got two words for Mr. Phillips: Danish cartoons.

  • KD

    If one argues that Muslims in the UK are currently doing their best to develop a form of Islam that is compatible with living in a free and democratic society – then one is acknowledging that Islam as it has existed from its conception until now, is not compatible with a free and democratic society. (Otherwise why does a new version need to be ‘developed’ in order to make it compatible?)
    As for Christians being ‘militant’ when complaining about being persecuted – if only! I don’t call a nurse or a council van driver fighting to keep their jobs particularly ‘militant’. That’s just nonsense.
    And Mr. Phillips wants people to believe his assertion that the person most likely to feel slighted because of their religion is not a Muslim but a Christian? Get real. David Simpson MP pointed out in a recent debate in Westminster Hall that throughout the UK the policy is that people can say whatever they like about Christianity, but one is not supposed to say anything about Islam. That is verboten. Was Mr. Simpson telling the truth? Yes? Then Mr. Phillips is not.

  • KD

    Of course, one could say that Christians are more likely to feel slighted because they are more likely to be slighted by people like Mr. Phillips. However -for example – Richard Dawkins is free to walk about anywhere he wants to, and there is absolutely no danger of him coming to harm or being prosecuted by the state.
    This is because, as John Stuart Mill put it in ‘On Liberty’, Christians may have good reason to remonstrate, reason, persuade or entreat someone to change their mind about how they view the world – but Christians in the United Kingdom do not and certainly will not compel someone to do so, nor will they visit any harm upon him. So, militant? Hardly.
    However, if Mr. Phillips is honest about Islam then he will acknowledge that practitioners of that particular religion regularly take the other route, as described by Mill. There are many people throughout the world who are in fear for their lives because they have said something about Islam, or because they have done something which contradicts Islamic teachings. And there is an ever-growing list of people who have been charged, because they have said something about Islam which the state does not want them to say. (Note the distinction between that and saying something which is not based on Islamic teachings, as found in the Koran and the hadith.) These are facts.
    Mr. Phillips’ position simply does not stand up to scrutiny.

  • Wow KD!! Lots of opinions there! I think you should write a guest post for me one of these days?

    I completely agree with you though. Can’t add anything to what you’ve said!!

  • Mildlybemused

    @RD You seem to be talking about making a ‘new’ version, and then making references to various different islamist terrorist actions and a couple of oppressive islamic dictatorships. Has it possibly not occurred to you that Islam is not actually one homogenised mass, and that there are many different strains of belief (might we call them ‘denominations’?) operating, based on how much emphasis they place on different bits of the Koran. There are definitely some extremist sectors, but there are also many who do seek to fit into western society, preach peace, and condemn many of the crimes done in the name of Islam. I think they would feel just as slighted by your opinion as you seem to be by Trevor Philips.

  • KD

    If you’d care to go through that again, you’ll find that it was Trevor Phillips who was talking about Muslims communities in the UK trying to ‘develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy.’ (See link.)
    I wondered why a version of Islam needed to be developed in order for it to be compatible with living in a free and democratic society. The reason I wonder is because from Mr. Phillips’ admission, it follows that from its creation right up until the present day, Islam has not been able to ‘develop’ (to use Mr. Phillips’ term) in a way that makes it compatible with life in a ‘modern liberal democracy’. If you wish to address this straightforward logical point, I will of course be interested in what you have to say.
    In addition you will find that I made no mention to ‘different Islamist terrorist actions’ nor did I refer to ‘a couple of oppressive Islamic dictatorships’. I did refer to an observation made in Westminster Hall last month by David Simpson MP, who said that in the United Kingdom, which is obviously not an Islamic dictatorship but a ‘modern liberal democracy’ it appears to be policy to allow all kinds of criticism and blasphemy aimed at Christianity, but one must not do the same about Islam. (See link.) This may or may not be true, but it does seem to contradict the view held by Mr. Phillips. And finally (before I run out the door and off to work) I must say that if Mr. Phillips is correct then your assertion that you ‘think’ these Muslims you claim to know would feel ‘slighted’ by what I actually said, then that too runs counter to what Mr. Phillips said. He ‘thinks’ they wouldn’t. If you’re saying they are then you’re agreeing with me, not him. (And just imagine how ‘slighted’ Muslims who don’t ‘preach peace’ feel!) As for the question of Christians being ‘militant’ once again I’d say that a nurse or a council van driver trying to keep their jobs is not militant in any way, shape or form. On the other hand we have: the Danish cartoons.

  • KD

    Quick re-do: the last part of that previous comment was a bit shambolic, because I just typed it out and hit ‘Post Comment’ before leaving the house. With a little more time and consideration then: I repeat that it was not I who said that Muslims in the UK were trying to develop a form of Islam that was compatible with living in a free and democratic country, it was Trevor Phillips.

    And it was Mr. Phillips who compared Christians and Muslims with regards to their likelihood of being ‘slighted’ when someone says something critical of their religion.

    I wondered why it would be necessary to develop a form of Islam that would be compatible with freedom and democracy. I this is a legitimate question. Mr. Phillips’ assertion may or may not be true, but if his statement is unpacked, then he appears to be saying that Islam has until now failed to ‘develop’ in a way that is compatible with freedom and democracy. If this is so, then that is quite a significant point.

    I questioned Mr. Phillips’ assertion that Christians were more likely to be ‘slighted’ than Muslims, together with his notion that Christians were more ‘militant’ about their beliefs than Muslims. These are empirical claims, and the evidence available to us does not seem to support Mr. Phillips’ claims (either of them).

    I also cited an MP who spoke recently at Westminster Hall (which is as far away from an Islamic dictatorship as one could get.) His comments seem to contradict those of Mr. Phillips.

    And since mention had been made of living in a free and democratic society, I thought it might be worth thinking about what John Stuart Mill wrote in ‘On Liberty’:

    “… the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. ”

    I argued that Christians in the UK in 2011 may remonstrate with someone, or reason with them, or try to persuade them to alter their worldview. But this is the mark of a free and democratic society. It is certainly not ‘militant’ in any way.

    However, if we are honest about it, we have to admit that time and again, we have seen Muslims throughout the UK, across Europe and around the world, trying to compel others to be silent, or even visiting evil upon them, if they have said or written something which they don’t want them to say or write. The Danish cartoon affair is one well-known example of this sort of thing.

    In conclusion I said (in a rather meandering fashion, I grant you) that if there are Muslims in the UK who ‘preach peace’ and who practice a form of Islam that is compatible with the freedom of thought and expression outlined in Mill’s ‘On Liberty’ then they will have no problem with a British citizen wondering whether a statement made by a public figure such as Mr. Phillips is logically sound, or factually correct.

    After all, someone questioning the statements of a public figure such as Mr. Phillips is to be expected in a free and democratic society.

    So if – as you assert – even ‘moderate’ Muslims in the UK who ‘preach peace’ can’t deal with that, then that lends weight to the observation gleaned from Mr. Phillips’ earlier comment: that Islam has not ‘developed’ into a form that is compatible with freedom and democracy.